The arrest of investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and 31 July protests organiser Jacob Ngarivhume by police on Monday is a ploy by the government to divert attention from the Farm Mechanisation Scheme scandal, a political commentator has said.
University of Kent law professor Alex Magaisa said the Zimbabwean government wants to silence voices of dissent as it has become apparent that social media has neutralised and outdone old propaganda media such as ZBC radio stations and the sole TV channel. Magaisa wrote on Twitter:
"Yesterday I said the regime would throw up a trick to divert attention from the looting under the Farm Mechanisation Scheme. The arrest of Hopewell Chin’ono and Jacob Ngarivhume is supposed to do that. The regime wants to take back control of the narrative. But #PayBackOurMoney.
"One way to deflect attention from the Farm Mechanisation scam is to do something so outrageous that it dwarfs the attention on looting, like the arrests. But still, Zimbabweans refuse to be hoodwinked. They want beneficiaries to #PayBackOurMoney Simple!
"The regime wants to silence voices of dissent. This is not just about Hopewell or Jacob. This is about every citizen who wants to exercise their freedom of expression, assembly or to demonstrate. It’s about silencing social media, which has neutralised and outdone old propaganda.
"As we demand #FreeHopewell & #FreeJacob let us remember that the regime is also testing people’s resolve. If people sit back and watch, their leaders will be picked one by one, like lambs to the slaughter. Authoritarian regimes are only as strong as the people’s acquiescence."
On Saturday, Magaisa literally threw the cat among the pigeons when he exposed how ruling party elites looted US$200 million in the form of farming equipment, with the cost later saddled on the shoulders of taxpayers.
Following Magaisa’s comment, former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor Gideon Gono issued a long incoherent article trying to justify the looting.
Another beneficiary of the controversial Farm Mechanisation Scheme, Temba Mliswa, has since pledged to use part of the proceeds to build a rural church building for the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe.